The Quest opened. The Quest closed. Atmosphere rocked Conan O'Brien. As we look back over 12 months of Minnesota music, the minor chords and major changes blur. The West Bank scene got the book it deserves—and lost the bar it loves. Tom Barnard blamed hip hop for violence, and rap mixtapes asked, "What you know about the App?"—meaning Minneapolis. Here's what we remember, anyway, between Conrad's haircut and the new P.O.S. video. Raise those cell phones in the air!
• Longtime First Avenue manager Steve McClellan resigns from the club, citing differences with owner Byron Frank. "Let's just say we came to a fork in the road regarding career and long-range goals," says McClellan. Retained as a consultant, he continues putting on shows through the Diverse Emerging Music Organization (DEMO), while teaching venue management at McNally Smith College of Music.
The club itself gets a makeover with the addition of a kitchen and flat-screen TVs; plans are drawn up to raise billboards over the marquee outside. In celebration, the VIP Room bursts into flames. (No one is hurt, and the room eventuallly reopens.) For his own reasons, production manager Conrad Sverkerson cuts off his dreadlocks. (In September, a benefit to help Sverkerson pay medical bills from his back surgery features Soul Asylum, the Jayhawks, and Trip Shakespeare.)
• The band Brother and Sister play a show in Shakopee's old Scott County jail. It's the endpoint of a daylong rock 'n' roll scavenger hunt, in which participants ride the light rail to the Mall of America, get "arrested" (by Faggot singer Tim Carroll in a cop uniform), and are bused to the concert site, where they are issued prison jumpsuits. During the show, audience members mosh, jump on beds, and hang from bars.
• Transgender rockers All the Pretty Horses play a farewell show after nine years together. Singer-guitarist Venus goes pop on a subsequent solo album, Trashed and Broken Hearted (SkinDog), as the bassist and drummer crunch forward in Harsh Reality. Other ex-bands of 2006: the Soviettes, Sicbay, the Bleeding Hickeys, U Joint, Katastrophy Wife, Cardinal Sin, the Cave Deaths, the Vets, Malachi Constant, Signal to Trust, and Metallagher—a Metallica cover band fronted by two Gallagher impersonators. "Why do you ever want me to come back to this?" says one of the Gallaghers during their mayonnaise-jar-smashing farewell show at the Triple Rock in April.
• Though ostensibly set in 1995 on Lyndale Avenue South, the second issue of hot-selling alternative comic Local (Oni Comics) contains fun-to-find musical anachronisms: Low's 2005 CD sits on the shelf at Oarfolkjokeopus (renamed Treehouse Records years ago), plus, there's a Heiruspecs CD and a Soviettes flyer.
R.I.P.: Larry Batson, columnist. Bob Feldman, president of Red House Records. Johnny Lopez, drummer with the Augie Garcia Band and the Buddy Davis Trio.
• Zombies in full makeup invade frozen Medicine Lake in Plymouth, swarming the ice around the Art Shanty Projects with a harmonious moan. Months later, participants in a "zombie dance party" are arrested in downtown Minneapolis for "behavior that was suspicious and disturbing," Lt. Gregory Reinhardt tells KSTP-TV.
• Closed since mid-December 2005 after losing its liquor license, the Quest reopens. But five months later, the roof of the Wyman Building catches fire, and the resulting water damage forces the club to shut down for the rest of the year. Promotions company Mr. Chan Presents spreads shows around town, introducing thousands of fans to the Varsity, Station 4, Trocaderos, and some club called First Avenue.
• Onstage at the Terminal Bar, singer Kevin Bowe recalls recently trying to pitch Joan Baez a protest song: "She said, 'I don't do war songs anymore.' And I was like, 'So you think war is good now? What the hell is wrong with you?'" Semisonic's Dan Wilson has better luck this year with Bush administration opponents the Dixie Chicks, for whom he co-writes six songs on the Rick Rubin-produced Taking the Long Way (Sony), including "Not Ready to Make Nice." Wilson later joins a host of locals, including fellow former members of Trip Shakespeare, on a children's CD, Down by the Riverside, to benefit Reuben Lindh Family Services.
• Tapes 'N Tapes play a packed show at the Terminal Bar, and then pretty much do nothing for the rest of the year—except perform on the Late Show with David Letterman, become the buzz band at South by Southwest (in Austin, Texas), receive raves in Rolling Stone, sell out dates in the U.K., sign to XL Recordings, and open a club in Las Vegas named after their latest album—oh no wait, that one was Prince.
• Prince kicks ass on Saturday Night Live this month, kicks ass at the Orpheum (inviting guests back to Paisley Park for a Legendary Combo afterparty), then refrains from kicking ass on the road—instead launching a scheme to turn Elvis on us, taking up residence at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and performing there regularly. Album sales of 3121 (NPG/Universal) dwindle, but Grammy voters give up a flush of nominations—as if maybe they just want to see the guy play at the ceremony.
R.I.P.: Carolyn Bailey Argento, opera singer for the Center Opera Company. Mary Lundquist, opera singer. George McCracken, bass drummer for various pipe bands. Barbara Tegeder, singer on WCCO radio in the 1930s.
• The Replacements reunite, sort of. Singer Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson record some songs for a new 'Mats compilation, Don't You Know Who I Think I Was? The Best of the Replacements (Rhino), and original drummer Chris Mars drops by to sing backup. As Westerberg later tells Newsweek, his seven-year-old son Johnny is there for the sessions. "He thought we sucked," says the dad.
• Local musician Martin Devaney accompanies former Minnesota Twin Mudcat Grant on guitar during the Kirby Puckett Tribute at the Metrodome. Grant sings "What a Wonderful World," Puckett's favorite song. "He asked me to do it the night before," says Devaney, "which was incredibly scary. I did not sleep a wink. I learned it off the Joey Ramone version."
• SoCal pop-punks NOFX shoot a video for "Seeing Double at the Triple Rock" at its namesake club. Lines such as "It's three o'clock at the Triple Rock/Another round of watching Paddy talk" come to life as Madonna might imagine them, with St. Patrick Costello of Dillinger Four appearing as a bishop surrounded by punk-rock nuns—sexy!
• Approved in January by incoming Mayor Chris Coleman, St. Paul's comprehensive smoking ban takes effect on March 31 in all bars and restaurants. The Gopher Bar gets the first $500 fine, which is reduced to $300 on appeal. Owners announce they will be ordering urinal cakes with a picture of the ban's author, Council Member Dave Thune, on them. At local concerts, meanwhile, people begin raising cell phones instead of lighters.
• "Welcome to Seattle, motherfuckers," says one of the men attempting to rob A Whisper in the Noise at knifepoint in the Emerald City, after a gig opening for tourmates Arab Strap. The musicians refuse to hand over their gear, and the tour manager gets a blow to the face. The robbers escape, and the manager, with his front teeth knocked out, spends a night in the ER.
Four months later, Quietdrive return to their parking place outside St. Andrew's in Detroit and find their van, trailer, and gear stolen. The musicians catch a break when somebody calls their manager using the phone number on one of the stolen CDs. But the would-be informant demands payment, plus a job as Quietdrive's security. Eventually, the FBI helps the band recover most of its gear, though every last personal item is gone except drummer Brandon Lanier's shoes.
In July, Lee's Liquor Lounge owner Louie Sirian is robbed at gunpoint by two masked men who burst into the bar with sawed-off shotguns. "After all I've been through," Sirian tells the Star Tribune's Chris Riemenschneider afterward, "looking down the barrel of a shotgun didn't even scare me like it should have." The Lee's patriarch had recently lost his wife of 45 years to a heart attack and his daughter to cancer.
R.I.P.: Frank F. Engdahl, jazz musician and founder of KBEM-FM radio. Gordon Parks, pianist, composer, and director of Shaft.
• After receiving a cease-and-desist letter from George Lucas, Hanz Solo releases his second CD under the name Hanz Erik and the Hims. Local performers Tom Hanks, and Mel Gibson and the Pants, remain unbowed.
• The fifth annual Geek Prom finds its perfect spiritual home at the Science Museum of Minnesota just as the adult prom motif takes off. In May comes the Goth Prom at the Saloon, the Punk Rock Prom at Big V's, and a prom-inspired fashion show at the Walker (the Un-Prom), with a musical at Hennepin Stages to come (The Awesome '80s Prom). So when's the Metalhead Prom?
• Atmosphere appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live for the second time, and otherwise stay in the hot lights this year, getting love from MTVU, playing Coachella, and appearing on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Through it all, Slug still takes time out to engage in quality flame wars on DUNation.com.
R.I.P.: Betty Scott, clarinetist and member of the St. Paul JCC Orchestra. Helen Wee, cellist and music educator.
• Dancing in the streets becomes legal in Minneapolis for the first time since 1960, after City Council members delete ordinance 427.240 ("No person shall dance or engage or participate in any dancing upon any public street or highway in the city").
• Some 100 bands play a dozen venues over three days in Duluth at the annual Homegrown Music Festival—sort of a South by Southwest without the music industry, or out-of-towners, or warm weather. (It feels kind of like a post-punk version of the cozy, besieged community imagined by Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion movie, but drunker.) Bone Appetit growl "You fight to win/I fight to kill," but rappers Crew Jones yell the chorus of the fest: "Hurricanes hate our freedoms."
• Between sound collage by Negativland at Creative Electric Studios and jamming by members of Noise Queen Ant and Seawhores outside Grumpy's Bar, a gentler type of percussion happens during Pillow Fight Club Minneapolis. Amid Nordeast's annual Art-A-Whirl festival, children and punkers bash out clouds of white feathers at Logan Park. As the down settles onto the moist grass, a tiny baby is laid down on the fresh feather bed for pictures.
R.I.P.: Jean Kenway Archibald, violinist and librarian for the St. Paul Civic Symphony. Idillio Del Col, accordion player and repairman. Raphael Fraisse, jazz violinist. George Garrett, producer of "Surfin' Bird" and owner of Music City and Nic-O-Lake record stores.
• White Light Riot's Mike Schwandt bashes himself in the head with his own guitar during an opening gig for the Alarmists at the Varsity Theater. Though he doesn't notice it at first, the injury ultimately requires seven stitches. "We tried to put a photo of Mike onstage on our MySpace page, and they made us take it down on the grounds that it might upset people," says bassist Dan Larsen.
• Local music's avant-garde has a field day or three in June, with the national End Times Festival at the Turf Club, the Heliotrope event at Franklin Art Works, and Brother and Sister's summer scavenger hunt at various surreal locations, including a baseball diamond and a highway underpass. At this last spot, confrontational punk band Faggot show up looking like pornographic construction workers, and shout at passing truckers from on top of mounds of gravel. They get a honk.
• Level nightclub becomes Foundation nightclub, with little obvious difference beyond an influx of national hip hop and R&B. Other venues emerging to more prominence this year include the all-ages Toybox, Memory Lanes, the 331 Club, the Eagles Club in Seward, and the Hexagon, where booker Chris Dorn and events website www.minnieindie.com team up in September to host a night of 24 bands performing seven-minute sets on two adjacent stages.
R.I.P.: Tirza Teitelbaum, music educator and expert on the Jewish music of Iraq. Catherine J. Werner, composer, music educator, and choir director.
• Otherworldly winds in Bayfront Park finally bring down Duluth's Green Man Festival, along with its big-top tent. Ol' Yeller are mid-song when the canvas comes down on them, though Rich Mattson manages a "that's all folks" guitar riff before being engulfed. No one is hurt, but the stage is rendered useless, forcing Lili's Burlesque Revue to take the main bandstand, "in front of God and everybody," says festival backer Tim Nelson. He adds, "We lost money on the event every year and this was the final nail."
• Standing in the parking lot next to Bean Scene during the North Side's first art crawl, R&B singer Zsamé pauses from her smooth jazz with piano player Wenso Ashby to address the crowd under the darkening skies. "How's everyone doing?" she asks. All right, they answer. "Where are the TV cameras? Where's the media? You know what you'll read about tonight in tomorrow's paper?"
"Nothing," answers a woman in the crowd, "because there's no shooting."
"That's right," says Zsamé. "Something positive for the community, you won't read about it. So you go take this to the news and tell them about it. You write the news."
• The Viking Bar closes after 47 years in business with a word-of-mouth final Monday jam led by Willie Murphy on July 31. Some rowdy regulars mourn by climbing on the bar to dance, others by stumbling to the floor. The event is featured in a new book by Cyn Collins titled West Bank Boogie: Forty Years of Music, Mayhem and Memories (Triangle Park Creative), in which Murphy explains the Viking's importance. "It was sort of the last stand of the West Bank that had music like there was so much of in the old days," he says. Other music venues to close this year include the rock stage of Star Central in Columbia Heights, which goes out with an American Head Charge show in August, and the MALA studio, a legendary punk space.
R.I.P.: Bruce Carlson, leader of the Schubert Club. Joe Carter, singer with the Penumbra Theatre Company and the Minnesota Opera. Max Metzger, conductor of pops concerts at the Como Lakeside Pavilion for the past 56 years. Paul Nelson, pioneering music critic and co-founder of The Little Sandy Review.
• The phenomenon of mixtapes—home-burned CDs featuring local artists rapping over national beats—floods local hip hop. On his own new mixtape The City Pages (now there's one way to get your CD in the paper) Emazin retools T.I.'s "What You Know About That" into "Bout the App" (as in the Minneap), rapping "For my niggas up on Lake Street/All the way to Broadway/Stackin' up the bread, man/We gotta hustle all day." North Side rappers the Street Kingz, who got their start on the mixtape circuit, crack the bottom of the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, peaking at 88 with a non-mixtape debut, Crown Gang Family (Street Kingz Entertainment).
• Low Cost Records, one of two North Side stores that carry mixtapes, is shut down by Minneapolis city officials after a man is killed across the street. At a news conference nearby, Mayor R.T. Rybak announces that the storefront is "a magnet for criminal activity," and that the building is structurally unsound. Other record stores to close in 2006: Soul Survivor up Broadway, Nordeast's Aardvark, and the Dinkytown branch of Know Name Records.
"While plenty of rap music is great," Rybak writes in the Star Tribune the same week, "it's time young listeners stopped buying exploitative work of self-styled 'gangstas' who make millions inciting violence though their only real experience with life on the streets is cruising Santa Monica Boulevard in their tricked-out Escalades." Despite Rybak's questionable references, even that dichotomy is lost on the KQRS-FM morning crew, who predict nine shootings at that same month's (Rybak-endorsed) Twin Cities Celebration of Hip Hop—three for each day. Snippets of the broadcast are played during the Chosen Few's triumphant set at the celebration.
• Gary Burger, singer of '60s rock greats the Monks, fronts the black-clad Conquerors as the "Mock Monks" during the Sound Unseen film festival. Taking the Bryant-Lake Bowl stage, he updates the lyrics to the 1966 song "Monk Time." Instead of "Why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam?" he yells, "Why do you kill all those kids over there in Iraq, Iran?" and adds, "George Bush, who the hell is he?" In October, three of the original Monks unite to play Minnesota for the first time, at Jammer's in Burger's hometown of Bemidji.
• A torrential downpour and tornado nearly keep the equally radical Flaming Lips from playing the State Fair, though singer Wayne Coyne eventually takes the stage. "I wish they had bands like us play the State Fair when I was a kid," he says.
R.I.P.: Rudy Garcia, founder of '60s band the Jaymars. Dale Schatzlein, dance impresario and director of concerts at Northrop Auditorium.
• Playing for a packed First Avenue, dancehall great Buju Banton calls Minneapolis "Indianapolis" for the first half hour of his set, until a bandmate corrects him. Ghostface Killah's geography is only slightly better on "Outta Town Shit," a track on his December album More Fish (Def Jam). "Like one day, right, over a powerful dice game in Minnesota/We hit the Mall up for kicks," he raps, detailing the subsequent chaos before a newscaster breaks in with the bulletin: "Today in downtown Minnesota, a tragic shootout occurred at 5:23 p.m."
• Despite protests of "You sound great," Cat Power complains at length about the sound at the Varsity. She also complains about her flight, and other matters, for what seems like an hour. Half of the audience leaves.
• Nye's Polonaise is named the best bar in America by Esquire, in a grandiose tribute by Chris Jones: "The best bar in America occupies a corner where the path to righteousness and the road to perdition run parallel, east to west, perpendicular to the muddy river that cuts this country in two, north to south." Nye's accordion player Ruth Adams is honored in October by the Minnesota Music Academy with a Connie Hechter Award for lifetime achievement.
R.I.P.: Drew Gordon, composer and keyboardist of the New Psychenauts and Gondwana. Stephe Perry, singer of Erishkigal.
• Taking the award for best locally released recording at the 26th Annual Minnesota Music Awards, '80s pub-poppers the Flamin' Oh's rock out like little kids, giving the more genuinely youthful, less genuinely '80s upstarts ZibraZibra (who win best teen artist) a run for their collective lunch money. The best awards show since Prince actually showed up to one of these things owes its humor and ease to REV 105 morning-show legends Mary Lucia (now of the Current, 89.3 FM) and Brian Oake (now of Cities 97 FM), who maintain just the right pretense of ceremony. Then Belles of Skin City frontman Dave Matters graciously accepts the award for song of the year ("Black Sweat") on behalf of Prince, and all that's out the window.
• Catching an eyeful of pasties (courtesy of Le Cirque Rouge) and an earful of amplified cabaret, a city inspector issues a cease-and-desist order compelling the 331 Club to discontinue its use of electrical amplification by November 14. Yet the Nordeast outpost of freak folk and other delights goes unplugged with grace, making the most of a situation with the "Unamplified Improvisation" series on Sundays.
R.I.P.: Shamus Helgason, guitarist and member of A False Notion, Voice Activated Shotgun, and Sound Salvation. Stefan Olson, longtime Turf Club bartender and doorman. Danial Shapiro, choreographer and dancer.
• In less than a month, more than 20 bands in Duluth pull together to record a children's CD, Treasure Chest, to benefit Pearl Swanson, the newly adopted baby daughter of local studio engineer Eric Swanson. A month earlier, Pearl went into acute heart failure and was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy. "Eric Swanson has more karma in the bank than anyone I have ever met," says Homegrown founder Scott Starfire, who helped organize a four-day festival to raise funds in December. Other benefits this year include two for rapper Crazy Amy, who has her own heart problems; a metal scene-unifying tribute to Earl Root (of KFAI's The Root of All Evil fame, 90.3/106.7), who has been fighting Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma since 2000; and the two-CD set For New Orleans (Sugarfoot Music), raising money for New Orleans Habitat for Humanity.
• Following an encouraging trend set by singer Haley Bonar and radio personality the Dan One, former Lost Cause editor Mark Baumgarten returns to Minneapolis to run a new magazine, Metro.
• Minneapolis rapper Toki Wright plays shows in Uganda, including one in war-torn Gulu, where the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has forced children to torture and kill members of their own families for 20 years. The first American hip-hop artist to perform there, Wright helps develop a youth showcase for the HEALS (Health Education Literacy Sports) organization. "I was brought in to facilitate Hip-Hop as Play Therapy," he says. "I wasn't there to pry horrific stories out of them, but to help them develop other methods of play as a way to cope."
R.I.P.: Jim Hill, WCCO Radio personality, who played "Milking Music" in the '50s and '60s. Alice Preves, violist for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Rolf Scheurer, former conductor of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra.
• Scribble Jam beatbox champion DJ Snuggles performs between quarters at a Timberwolves game, "scratching" using his mouth alone, cutting the words "Timberwolves," "Kevin Garnett," and "Mike James" into the beat. "He came out and killed it in front of like 10,000 people," says one fan.
• The bestselling local act of 2005, Motion City Soundtrack, appears on the cover of the January "2007 Most Anticipated" issue of the AP: Alternative Press.
R.I.P.: Sister Rose Immacula Brennan, director and voice teacher at St. Joseph's School of Music.
Thanks to all the contributors: G.R. Anderson Jr., Sarah Askari, Paul Demko, Mary O'Regan, Nate Patrin, Molly Priesmeyer, Rod Smith, Chuck Terhark, Lindsey Thomas, Jim Walsh, and Mark Wheat.